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(2nd LD) Singaporean foreign minister arrives in Pyongyang to prepare Trump-Kim summit

All Headlines 21:48 June 07, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with Balakrishnan's arrival in Pyongyang; CHANGES headline, dateline)

SEOUL/BEIJING, June 7 (Yonhap) -- Singapore's top diplomat arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday, the North's state media reported, on an apparent mission to help prepare next week's historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un set to take place in the Southeast Asian nation.

Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was greeted at the airport by Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui-chol, Radio Pyongyang reported. Japan's Kyodo News agency reported that Balakrishnan held talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

Balakrishnan was expected to fine-tune with the North Koreans details on security and protocol arrangements for the summit. His two-day visit is also expected to include a meeting with Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal head of state.

Earlier, Balakrishnan was seen at a Beijing airport boarding an Air Koryo flight bound for Pyongyang.

Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan enters the departure terminal at Beijing's International Airport to take a flight to Pyongyang for a two-day visit on June 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, Kim Chang-son, a senior North Korean official known as the de facto chief of staff to leader Kim, headed back to Singapore, a day after arriving in Beijing from the Southeast Asian nation on what had been expected to be a trip back home.

During his 10-day stay in Singapore, Kim held discussions with White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Joe Hagin to fine-tune logistics related to the summit. Kim had been expected to return to Pyongyang to report on the outcome of the discussions.

It was unclear, however, why he headed back to Singapore.

A source said Kim may have some additional preparations to make, or he could have decided to report the results of his discussions with the U.S. through the North's Embassy in Beijing instead of flying to Pyongyang, and went back to Singapore to take care of remaining issues because there is not enough time left before the summit.

Another source said that, while in Beijing, Kim might have met with Chinese officials to discuss the possibility of leader Kim flying to Singapore via China.

This file photo shows Kim Chang-son, a senior North Korean official known as the de facto chief of staff to leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

(END)

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